SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – A new mentoring program at the Springfield Boys & Girls Club is aiming to keep at-risk kids off the streets.

Eight staffers from the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department and the Springfield Police Department will mentor 20 kids. They’ll participate in a number of activities ranging from academics, to athletics and healthy habits.

Sarah Tsitso, the executive director of the Boys & Girls Club, told 22News, “A big piece of what we’re looking to do is change the kids’ perceptions of law enforcement. We really want to make it positive. We want to show them that law enforcement officials are here to support them, here to protect them, and are really here to make the community a better and safer place.”

The club works with on-staff social workers to identify those who need the most mentorship. This program is funded by the Office of Justice Programs, whose goal is to utilize mentorship for at-risk kids, and keep them from dropping out of school, and also keeping them off the streets and away from gang activity.

22News sat down with Hampden County Sheriff Michael Ashe last week, where he emphasized the department’s focus on proactive approaches. He said, “You and I know at the bottom of that cliff is ambulances, and so on. We want to put a fence around the cliff at the top, at the top of the cliff.”

The mentors and mentees will meet once a week. All of the kids will get together for a group activity once a month. The program launches on February 6th, and will go on all year.

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